Thanks for kicking off the week with this illuminating post. One of the interesting questions you seem to raise is the extent to which the timing for this X-Files reboot is perfect for the creator and cast, for Fox, or for both. It does seem that Duchovny and especially Anderson, whose work on Hannibal has been well received, are only recently starting to get away from being closely and primarily associated with The X-Files. On the one hand, this revival is coming late enough after the 2008 film to feel fresh and new, but on the other hand it seems like it could effectively put the actors (as well as Chris Carter) back into the box, so to speak. From the broader industrial perspective, however, the X-Files revival is only one of a number of high profile reboots, re-imaginings, and remakes that are currently in the works, including the much-publicized Twin Peaks revival. Is Fox simply trying to avoid getting left out in the cold here? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the extent to which the revival stands to benefit the network versus, or in addition to, the creative talent.
There’s definitely a lot more to explore on the topic of “Disneyfication” as Beatriz points out. Karal Ann Marling has done some interesting work on Disneyland’s “Architecture of Reassurance,” that points to how the park’s architectural strategies for soothing visitor/consumers have been applied to venues from malls to museums. If the postmodern fear of “Disneyfication” meant fearing some kind of loss or detachment of the real, I think in our post-postmodern era the terms may have shifted. Entertainment, play, and escapism — from Comic-Con to Viking River Cruises — are as real as any other experiences… if you can afford them.
Which brings it around to the issues of class that Ethan raises. I think there are certainly fan communities that are super-savvy about the Disney artifice and all that constructs it. However, what Telotte is getting at is that Disneyland has ways of calling attention to its artifice that enable ALL visitors to be savvy, on some level, about the constructedness of escapist entertainment. I would add to his analysis the fact that Walt Disney himself was on prime time revealing the “secrets” of the park’s artifice during its construction, as well as the “secrets” behind the company’s animated films. Disneyland, in my assessment, was built as an intersection of Play and Technology. The former requires leisure time and imagination, while the later necessitates some level of understanding of the mechanics (literally and figuratively) involved.
The Walt Disney Company has changed substantially, however, in the nearly 50 years since Walt Disney’s death. Disney is opium for the naive consumer masses - according to those who consider themselves above those masses. That is pretty much what is behind the pomo hyperreality argument, which I think is essentially an argument against consumerism in general with Disney being an astonishingly successful instance of it.
I certainly don’t have any answers here, but the reason I’m perpetually interested in all things Disney is precisely because of the brand’s position in the fandom-consumerist-technology-play constellation.
Thanks, everyone, for a stimulating discussion!!
thank you for your comment! Yes, it does indeed echo World Fairs and the like! It’s interesting that you mention that because the Jungle Cruise was partly inspired by an episode of Disney’s 1950s documentary series “True Life Adventure”, called “The African Lion.” That series certainly was meant to be educational, perhaps similar to World Fairs. Also, thank you for your reading suggestions!
Thanks for this post! learned a lot. Interesting to hear the end of the narration about being so fortunate. Fandom and fortune are somehow intertwined. It is not just that we are fans of a cultural representation or become culturally competent about it, narrate it, record it, experience the hyperreal as real, but also that we feel fortunate doing so. As Ethan Tussey mentions above, this is the class and social status aspect of fandom.
Love the post. Such an interesting film. It made me think of the importance of considering class and social status in judging Disney fandom. As you and I are very aware, there are fan communities for Disneyland that know everything about the artifice and hold it to a standard that stretches from camp to “quality.” Are those with the cultural currency, the knowledge and the interest in the constructedness of Disneyland, especially able to take advantage of the invitation to play or do you think this clip shows that “all that come to this happy place” are in on the fantasy?
Great post! You don’t mention the concept of “Disneyfication” but I couldn’t avoid thinking of it in your critique of the postmodern accounts of the Theme Park. I’ve seen this concept generally used in a pejorative way to describe popular forms of entertainment and consumption as less authentic and thus worthy of our attention. It’s really interesting to see how, as you mention, the Barstow’s home movie makes evident the limitations of such conceptualizations.
Thanks for introducing me to Bob’s Burgers! I’ve never seen this show but your post has sparked my interest on it. While reading I was thinking about the time I visited Euro Disney as a child and how class was marked across the selection of Hotel resorts available for visitors. As a kid I could clearly perceive those differences that ranged from the beautiful Disney archetypical palace, which of course was just beside the park’s entrance, to the more modest western ranch type, just a 20 min walk away… Even as visitors are invited to consume a world of artifice and fantasy they are reminded about their social position and limitations.
Thanks for writing such a compelling piece and for bringing to our attention this case study. It’s really interesting to see how throughout this week’s theme questions around ethnic and class representation are constant when discussing Theme Parks. While reading your post I was also thinking about the historical legacies of the Theme Park and its link with other related spaces that in varied degrees combine entertainment with education. More concretely, in the early 20th Century dioramas displayed mostly in World Fairs and Museums. If you haven’t come across it, an interesting read about this topic is Allison Griffith’s Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology, and Turn-of-the-Century Visual Culture (2002) where among other things she discusses the particular way in which popular forms of ethnographic pseudo-science reinforced misconceptions about race.
Theme Parks are not explicitly places associated with learning, but as you point out rides as the Jungle Cruise indeed contribute to perpetuate popular racial stereotypes, but what is worst is how the narration reinforces this perception instead of offering a different version of the story!
Thank you for this post Charlotte! Whonder Warf reminds me of old-timey (typically seaside) amusement parks like Coney Island. Where I live, in Long Beach, CA, the boardwalk also features some remnants of the long-defunct amusement park. I think these working class parks, as you identify them correctly IMO, are from a time when they were one of the few entertainment options for the working class (like vaudeville, arcades, etc.). They were accessible and cheap. Nowadays that we’re inundated with low-cost or even free entertainment — especially through the Internet — amusement parks have become more of a luxury, with day-pass prices around $100 for the most popular parks. Not only are they hyper-clean and hyper-real, they also include luxurious hotel resorts, restaurants, bars, shopping areas, etc. They’re a treat, a week-end getaway, a vacation destination primarily for people of means I think.
thanks for your reply! Yes, I did notice that as well, how most are glued to their phones. I mentioned in a comment above that I was very surprised when I didn’t find any discussion or complaints online about the racist elements of the ride. Given that nowadays people are so eager to immediately share their thoughts and sentiments (particularly when they’re upset) online, it’s especially surprising that seemingly nobody has discussed this on social media yet (or at least not to the point that it would’ve made the news/reach Disney). I mean, these animatronics are blatantly racist, I would think at least some guests would recognize that. But since they seem generally unengaged, maybe they just don’t care (enough)?